On February 1, 1998, William H. Ginsburg, the attorney for Monica Lewinsky, performed a feat that had never been done before — he appeared on all five major Sunday morning political talk shows: CNN's Late Edition, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox News Sunday. Since then, numerous politicians have gone through the effort of appearing on all five shows, including Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and John Kerry. The act has become known as “The Full Ginsburg.”
In a world where television programming could only be consumed in real time, performing a Full Ginsburg was the only way to be seen by the largest possible audience. These shows aired at times that overlapped in most markets, meaning viewers couldn't watch them all.
Now, of course, we live in an on-demand world, which makes it possible for political junkies to consume all five of the Sunday political talk shows. (CNN now airs State of the Union instead of Late Edition.) What does this mean for the Full Ginsburg? While politicos still perform it — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rounds just last month — is it still necessary?
One of the things that we've learned about podcasts is that when people get into them, they really get into podcasts, consuming more than a half dozen episodes each week. People don't say, “I've listened to two true crime podcast episodes this week, I'm at my limit.” Instead, they binge.
In other words, in an on-demand world, it's likely that political news junkies are consuming more than one — and possibly all five — of these shows. If the same guest appears on all five, repeating the same talking points, this is likely to get annoying for the audience. I regularly listen to these shows as podcasts, and I have found myself fast-forwarding through appearances by Adam Schiff or Kellyanne Conway because I've already heard them speak on one of the other shows.
Of course, we don't live in a world that's completely on-demand. Some viewers do still watch these shows as appointment viewing. What does that mean for the people involved?
As a guest looking to get my message out to as many people as possible, should I continue to try to book a Full Ginsburg? Or is it enough to do one show and hope that the appearance spreads virally?
As a booker for Sunday political talk shows, should you allow guests to appear on competing shows, or avoid it because people may have already heard their message elsewhere? For that matter, are your competitors still your competitors? If fans of a particular genre are likely to consume multiple shows in that genre, do these shows now become a good places to cross-promote your own?
In a world where people consume media in real time, everything is a zero-sum game: Either your listening to this radio station or that one. But in a world where media is available on demand, it's no longer a zero-sum game: I can listen to this podcast episode and that one.
What does this mean for those of us who work in the media? If Joe Rogan books an interview guest, should Marc Maron book the same guest? Should it be a factor at all? If My Favorite Murder covers a particular case, should Crime Junkies avoid that case? Should content creators be concerned about what the others are doing at all? I'm not sure we fully understand the ramifications of an on-demand world on content yet, but I know this: The Full Ginsburg ain't what it used to be.